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What the Bible says about Abraham and Isaac's Wealth
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 13:1-2

What if a person truly denies himself, works hard and wisely, and actually becomes wealthy? This question touches on our attitudes toward people who have accumulated wealth, whether in or out of the church, and it may severely test our judgment of them.

God blessed both Abram and Isaac. Obviously, He is not against wealth, as if it were some kind of evil burden imposed upon sinners. Wealth, however, brings trials just as surely as it brings blessings. We must not forget that Jesus warns that it is more difficult for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24). Wealth presents temptations, and they are not always easily handled.

One major difficulty is that wealth tends to pave the way for a person to destroy himself spiritually through the destruction of his faith in God. This happens because the wealthy person has the tendency to place his trust in his wealth rather than in God (Matthew 19:20-22). A second major problem is that wealth tends to promote pride because of a person's excessive self-admiration over being astute enough to accumulate it. Scripture reminds us, though, that God responds to the humble (Isaiah 66:2). Thus, the Bible's overall warning is that, in the unwary, wealth can subtly create division between its owner and God through misplaced trust.

Hebrews 11:36-38 presents us with another view of the picture regarding God and wealth:

Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.

By comparing this record with God's enriching of Abraham and Isaac, we learn that God deals with those He calls according to His purpose, that is, according to what He desires to accomplish through or in them. The Jews of Christ's time generally believed that, if someone was prosperous, it was evidence that he was a good person and God was blessing him. However, that may or may not be true. The record of Scripture shows that many evil people become wealthy, and Solomon makes note of this in Ecclesiastes.

The other side of the coin is that some people believe that, if a person is virtually destitute, he must be hiding a sin. We must learn to be careful in our judgment because neither blessing nor curse provides always-true evidence of the person's spiritual condition. To ensure our standing before God, we must diligently pursue His righteousness by carrying out our Christian responsibilities in the hope that God in His mercy might see fit to bless us with spiritual wealth.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Two): Works

Matthew 6:19-20

Jesus illustrates His admonition in Matthew 6:19-20 by counseling us to consider carefully two facts when comparing earthly and heavenly treasures. First, moth and rust cannot destroy heavenly treasures. Second, thieves cannot break in and steal treasures in heaven, which we valued so highly that we worked diligently to possess them. Both categories represent the high probability of earthly treasures steadily declining in value after having cost us much time and energy in obtaining them.

The first category—moth and rust—represents all the factors existing in the natural world that cause earthly treasures to deteriorate and lose their value. Foods become moldy, garments wear out, metals tarnish—even land can lose its fertility, become infested with weeds, or wash away. Fences and walls break down, roofs leak and cave in, and termites invade and destroy houses. Hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, fires, and floods can destroy expensive, well-built homes in a matter of minutes. What does a person have then but an empty lot that once held his family's home?

Thieves breaking in and stealing stand for the human element in diminishing or destroying value. If we do not tend to them carefully night and day, our treasures too often, either slowly or all at once, disappear into the hands of enemies. Apparently, in using this illustration, Jesus was thinking of the homes common to His area of the world, most of which were constructed of clay. Thieves could rather easily dig through the walls of a mud-brick home and steal the homeowner's valuables.

We should also consider inflation, which eats away the savings of many. There is also governmental mismanagement of national affairs resulting in higher taxes, as well as bank failures, stock market crashes, business insolvencies, and prolonged illnesses. Even the bodies and minds of the strongest of us gradually wear down, eventually causing the individual to die.

The simple reality is that we cannot take earthly treasures through the grave. In comparison with heavenly things, such physical treasures have a limited “lifetime” of value. We could say that earthly treasures picture temporariness while heavenly ones last for eternity (II Corinthians 4:18).

The Bible provides ample evidence that God is not against pursuing earthly treasure as long as His sons and daughters do not allow it to deflect them away from the primary goals that He has set for us. That line between them must be prayerfully and thoughtfully worked out between the child of God and God Himself. In Scripture, a wealthy person is not automatically reprobate under God's standard of judgment. Genesis 13:2 states, “Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold.” Note, Abram was not merely rich but “very rich.” And not only that, he was the friend of God (James 2:23). On the other hand, a rich person is not automatically accepted either.

Nor does the Bible condemn the setting aside of provision to take care of potential future needs, perhaps for a disaster. Joseph's advice to Pharaoh in Genesis 41:33-35 was to store up during the good years so there would be enough during the coming famine. The text later shows that God approves of Joseph's suggestion to set aside wealth to be prepared when bad times arrive.

The apostle Paul does not make a mistake in II Corinthians 12:14, where he counsels the Corinthians: “Now for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be burdensome to you; for I do not seek yours, but you. For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.” Parents are to “lay up” or set money aside for their children. In the same vein, though somewhat more broadly, the apostle writes in I Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part Five)


 




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